Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Shaman, psychoanalyst or obstetrician: a critical reading of Claude Levi-Strauss' essay "The efficiency of symbols"
Umeå University.
2010 (English)In: Folklore, ISSN 1406-0949, E-ISSN 1406-0957, no 45, 7-26 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article intends to clarify the obstetric, medical-psychological and ethnological credibility of a well-known essay in structural anthropology. Claude Levi-Strauss claims that it is possible to heal a person with an acute, life-threatening, physical, medical condition, in this case a complicated delivery, with purely psychological or magical methods. His reasoning is based on an incomplete source as well as on a grave anatomical misunderstanding. An obstetric analysis of the complete source furthermore shows that the medicine man or shaman uses a combination of a manual intervention, drug treatment and psychological influence. Levi-Strauss' claim must therefore be refuted. The empirical basis is also insufficient for Levi-Strauss' far-reaching conclusions on the topography of the human mind, the function of the subconscious and the comparison between psychoanalysis and shamanism The medicine man is described by Levi-Strauss as a "noble savage". However, Levi-Strauss also points out the importance of the psychological support of the patient in a valuable way.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Eesti Kirjandusmuuseum, Estonian Literary Museum , 2010. no 45, 7-26 p.
Keyword [en]
birth, cosmology, disease, medical anthropology, obstetrics, shamanism, structuralism, traditional medicine
National Category
Other Humanities Social Anthropology
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-109023DOI: 10.7592/FEJF2010.45.mjonesISI: 000281661400001OAI: diva2:857938
Available from: 2015-09-30 Created: 2015-09-17 Last updated: 2015-10-07Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

No full text

Other links

Publisher's full text

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Mjönes, Staffan
By organisation
Umeå University
In the same journal
Other HumanitiesSocial Anthropology

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Altmetric score

Total: 23 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link